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Stanford Defeats Washington, 30-22, in the Biggest Game of the Regular Season

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NCAA Football: Washington at Stanford John Hefti-USA TODAY Sports

Who would have guessed it? In the biggest game of the regular season, Stanford defeated Washington to get the inside track to the Pac-12 North title. On top of that, redshirt freshman K.J. Costello had a bigger night than Jake Browning, going for 211 passing yards (Browning only threw for 190). And David Shaw tied the great Pop Warner as the winningest coach in Stanford history.

Now for Stanford to win the Pac-12 North, all Stanford has to do is defeat Cal, and have Washington State lose either of its road games (@Utah, @Washington).

First Half

The first half opened with Stanford ripping Washington’s defense in a way that had never happened before.

Prior to this game, Washington’s defense never gave up a pass of more than 36 yards. In the first half alone against Stanford, Washington would give up two passes of 39 yards.

It didn’t start off looking so pretty, though. Stanford’s opening drive ended with a punt, while Washington very quickly tore through the Stanford defense for a touchdown, courtesy of an 88-yard drive capped off with Myles Gaskin going untouched for a 2-yard run into the end zone. Washington leads, 7-0.

On the very next drive, however, Stanford answered quickly. Costello ripped the Washington defense for a 39-yard pass to JJ Arcega-Whiteside and, two plays later, Bryce Love punched it into the end zone to tie the game at 7:

With the touchdown, Love extended his FBS-best active streak of 11 games with a touchdown. The 11-game streak also ties a Stanford record with Toby Gerhart.

Washington very quickly struck back, though, on the very next drive as Browning put together a beautiful 88-yard drive that ended with another Gaskin rushing touchdown, this time for 15 yards. Washington leads 14-7.

Stanford then went on a three-and-out, but the next Washington drive was a huge momentum-changer for Stanford. Facing a 4th and 1 from the Stanford 18, Frank Buncom and Joey Alfieri came up with a huge stop to keep Gaskin at the line of scrimmage and turnover the ball to Stanford:

The next Stanford drive would see Costello make another 39-yard pass to Arcega-Whiteside, as Costello put together a 61-yard drive that ended in a 38-yard field goal by Jet Toner.

Stanford went into the half down, 14-10.

Second Half

There have been so many times this year when it felt like the first half was just a prelude to what Stanford would deliver in the second half. Now was no exception.

After kicking off to Washington, the Stanford defense held Washington to a three-and-out. On the very next drive, Bryce Love continued to put together his Heisman reel. Despite facing a Washington defense that is best in FBS (3.7 yards per play), Love put in a 21-yard run, followed by a 12-yard run, and later would take it for a 13-yard touchdown, as Stanford took its first lead of the game, 17-14:

But it wasn’t just Love who was doing impressive things against the nation’s best defense. After forcing a Washington punt, the very next Stanford drive saw Arcega-Whiteside make a 26-yard catch, followed by a 14-yard catch. The two catches put Arcega-Whiteside at 130 receiving yards, the second time this season he had a 100+ yard game (the other time was against Oregon):

With the two catches, Costello reached a career-high of 198 passing yards.

But even despite Costello and Arcega-Whiteside putting in season-defining performances, this was still the Love show. Facing a 3rd-and-6—surely a passing down—Shaw called for a Love run. Love promptly ripped it off for another 17 yards to set up a 32-yard field goal. Stanford extends its lead, 20-14.

Then, on the very next Washington drive, Bobby Okereke chose the perfect time to make his first career forced fumble. Gaskin went out to run the ball when Okereke forced it loose, and Dylan Jackson scooped it up:

The fumble recovery would setup a Stanford field goal, which extended Stanford’s lead, 23-14.

Literally the very next drive, Okereke once again came up big. Facing a Washington third down, Okereke got into the backfield and sacked Browning for a loss of 18 yards to force a Washington 4th down from its own 6:

From the Washington 6, Joel Whitford made a 37-yard punt, but after a Washington personal foul, it was pulled back to the Washington 14. It would only take two runs from Love before he was once again in the Washington end zone to extend Stanford’s lead, 30-14:

Washington wasn’t going to go down without a fight, though; on the very next drive, Browning put together a beautiful 75-yard drive that ended with a Gaskin run for one yard into the end zone. On the two-point conversion, Browning found Dante Pettis to pull within one score of Stanford, 30-22.

The next drive, Stanford began with a promising 53-yard drive, but sputtered inside the Washington 30. Attempting a 47-yard field goal, Toner kicked the ball well short of the uprights and Stanford turned over the ball for one last Washington drive.

The defense once again came up big, though, when—who else?—Okereke sacked Browning for a loss of 9 yards, and it would only take four plays before the Stanford defense once again forced a Washington turnover on downs. Costello then kneeled out the game clock for the win.

Next week is Big Game, which will be even bigger considering that it may very well clinch Stanford the Pac-12 North Championship.